Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Illusion of Life - The Original Animation Bible

The original animation bible
The Illusion of Life was first published in the 1970s. It caused a sensation among animators, because it represented for the first time in print the accumulated wisdom of the Disney studio - set out in detail for anyone who cared to learn. The 1970s were a lean time for animation; Walt Disney was dead and the revival that would come with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and The Little Mermaid (and, later, with 3D animation) was still far in the future.

The Illusion of Life was written by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnstone, two of Disney's so-called "Nine Old Men", two of his top animators who had been with him since the early days and whose work had much to do with the development of the Disney style. Between them they created some of the most memorable moments in Disney animation.

Frank Thomas (centre) and Ollie Johnstone (Right). Image: Wikipedia

The last film that Frank and Ollie worked on was The Fox and The Hound, not by any means a great film, but better than the next one that Disney would release - The Black Cauldron.

By the 1970s the two by now elderly animators were doing less animation, and focusing more on their new book. Their big idea was to create a "bible" for future generations of animators, an authoritative reference work that would make sure that the craft of animation developed under Walt Disney's benign leadership would not disappear. At the same time, they would tell the story of the Disney Studio.

The book is really two books in one. Around 10% of it is a manual of methods, a how-to guide for the aspiring animator and film-maker. The rest is the story of the Disney Studio - and a compelling story it is.  So good in fact, that it easily distracts the student from their purpose - to learn the nuts and bolts of animation.  You can easily get lost in the story, and forget that your main goal is to learn the craft.

Years ago, I took my copy of the book to a photocopier and copied all the bits that were relevant to the actual study of animation - the nuts and bolts, as it were -  so that I would not get distracted by the rest. I then bound it all together in a new book, around 10% the size of the original.  It worked, but the original book is still a much more beautiful thing to take down from the shelf and enjoy.

Like The Animator's Survival Kit, The Illusion of Life is a book that should be on every animator's book shelf.


For more information on finding work and surviving in the animation and visual effects business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we are helping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films.  Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel, and read our post on setting up your own animation business. 

No comments:

Post a Comment